Lili Reinhart moved to Los Angeles on Jan. 8, 2016; exactly one year later, she found herself shaking hands with Viola Davis and gawking at Ryan Reynolds at the Golden Globes after parties. “I was completely overwhelmed, but in an otherworldly kind of way, in a great way,” she says, over the phone from on set in Vancouver. “It’s so weird to me because our show hasn’t aired yet, so part of me feels like I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be, you know? Because no one knows who I am. But it was incredible. I walked by Natalie Portman and she is one of my idols. And I was just like ‘holy s–t, she’s even tinier in person!’”
The 20-year-old is understandably still pinching herself. After attempting a solo move to Los Angeles at age 18, she retreated back home to Cleveland after five months of no success. “That was July 2015,” she says. “And I sat around for six months and thought about whether I wanted to try again, and if I should go back out there. I did a self tape at home with my mom, and we sent in the tape and it didn’t go anywhere. But then I moved to L.A., and a couple days after I moved my manager was, like, ‘so they still haven’t found that girl for Betty. I want you to go in again and try.’”
In “Riverdale,” she is Betty Cooper, but her version is a modernized take on the good-girl-next-door narrative, breaking away from the “plucky, happy-go-lucky light of the Fifties” and showing her as a “dark real teenager in today’s world, dealing with social media.” Reinhart wasn’t previously familiar with the Archie empire, which meant she was able to craft a Betty from scratch.
“Our Betty Cooper is still the girl next door — she literally lives next to Archie. And she’s the blonde all-American girl, she’s so sweet and forgiving, gives people the benefit of the doubt and second chances, wears her heart on her sleeve,” Reinhart says. “But she’s also incredibly broken on the inside, for many different reasons. For one thing, she suffers from mental health issues, and that’s something that I resonate with — I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I’m very open about that. So I can very much relate to Betty in that way, and that there’s a vulnerability inside.”
Making her mark on such a storied character, with a 75-year history a large swath of Americans know lovingly, is certainly a prime way to launch into an acting career. As Reinhart puts it, “what a difference a year makes.”
“I grew up with anxiety and depression, and going through high school, I felt entirely out of place. I felt very underwhelmed by the high school experience, and though I definitely felt pressure to be more social and not be so introverted, that’s just honestly who I am. I didn’t like to go to parties. I didn’t like to drink. That wasn’t fun to me, because from a very young age, I knew what I wanted to do: act and live in L.A. I was so ready to just get out of the small town that I grew up in and pursue my dreams. My mom was always like, ‘We just want you to have a backup plan if acting doesn’t work out.’ And I always said, ‘I don’t want a backup plan. I don’t want a plan B, because when things get hard, I’m going to fall back on that, and I’m going to give up, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to give myself an option to give up, because this is what I’m going to do.’ “Especially having this inner struggle with myself, with depression and anxiety about life, I felt very alone. But I made it through because I wasn’t afraid to talk about my feelings, and I was very open with my parents. For example, I wanted to see a therapist, and I did, and it very much helped me. More recently, when I was feeling anxious about something in my life, I was told something helpful from a cast member: ‘Everybody is scared. Everybody is worried about what they’re doing. Everybody worries about what other people think, but none of us know.’ You're not the only one who is messing up. Everyone around you is figuring it out too, so when you feel like you have no idea what to do or what you're going to do with your life or where you’re going to go, just remind yourself that every other person in the world is dealing with the same thing. They’re just finding their own way to work through it. To me, it’s just about reminding myself we’re all wandering around sometimes.” — @lilireinhart, aka Betty on @thecwriverdale, series premiere TONIGHT at 9/8c on The CW. [2/3]
What leaps to mind whenever someone mentions Archie comics? Teenagers crammed into a jalopy, driving to the soda shop? A romantic rivalry between girl-next-door Betty and spoiled rich kid Veronica? Bubblegum pop hits like “Sugar, Sugar?” Jughead’s stupid hat?
Or has no one mentioned the name “Archie Andrews” to you in years?
The creative team behind the CW’s high school soap Riverdale hopes you remember just enough about the old comic books to be excited about seeing them radically reimagined. Backed by producer Greg Berlanti (who helps manage the network’s DC Comics properties Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow), the new show takes a wild spin through an unusual variation of the Archie-verse, dropping the classic characters into the middle of a moody murder mystery, designed to appeal to Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl fans. The show premieres this Thursday, January 26th; here’s everything you need to know before tuning in.
Archie comics have a rich, varied history
Because Archie has been so ubiquitous for so long, non-aficionados may not realize how long the character’s been around or how important he was in the history of American popular culture. Introduced in Pep Comics in 1941 as a sort of pen-and-ink version of Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy, the all-American teen proved so immediately popular that his publisher MLJ Magazines soon changed its name to Archie Comics Publications. The core premise hasn’t changed much since then: The popular, ambitious, accident-prone Archie tries to skate through his days at Riverdale High. Along for the ride: his woman-hating, eternally hungry buddy Jughead; his competing girlfriends Betty and Veronica; and a teeming cast of eccentric peers and grown-ups.
That concept though has proved flexible enough to allow the gang to change with the times, adapting to rock & roll, disco, breakdancing and beyond. Archie and his friends have anchored a series of evangelical Christian comics, and starred in a musical animated TV cartoon that spawned the hit single “Sugar, Sugar.” Over the years, the cast has expanded to include enduring characters like Josie & the Pussycats and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Even today, at a time when most comics are confined to specialty shops, Archie digests are still available in supermarket checkout lines.
The CW’s Riverdale premieres on January 26, and continuing our string of interviews related to the series, today the spotlight falls on Lili Reinhart who plays the role of Betty Cooper. In the comics, we know Betty as the “nice girl,” and on Riverdale she is literally the girl next door, albeit with a mom who is not too fond of her hanging out with that Andrews boy.
“There’s a lot more to Betty than just wanting to be with Archie,” Reinhart says about her character. “That’s very important for us. It was important that we set that tone for our show, that Betty has a lot more going for her than just Archie. Both the girls – both Betty and Veronica, because in the comics it’s just kind of a back and forth between which girl Archie wants which day, but in our show, it’s definitely not the case. These girls are very strong and independent women. They don’t get walked all over by Archie,” she assures.
One added depth to Betty in the TV series is that she has some issues at the Cooper household. “Betty is dealing with a lot of family problems in the show and in this season, she’s dealing with her sister who was sent away, and Betty’s trying to discover why. Certainly someone’s keeping secrets from her, and there’s a very big divide between Betty and her parents, and that’s a big arc for Betty,” Lili teases. In exploring this storyline, we will see some of Betty’s inner strength. “Betty’s strong in her own sense and you see that throughout the season when she fights against her parents to find out what happened to her sister. She’s maybe not as confident and as bold and blunt as Veronica, but she’s strong in the sense that she’ll do anything for her sister, specifically, and she’s just a really good friend,” she says.
The gallery has been updated with a new poster, stills and on set photos of Lili in Riverdale. Thanks again to Neide for some of the new additions.
The gallery has been updated with new photos of Lili and Camila Mendes at the ELLE Women in Television Celebration held on January 14th. Thanks to Neide for some of the new additions. Enjoy!